“The Complete Champion Approach is about encouraging our athletes to be as well rounded as possible. We want them to aspire to be their best and use their God given talents across the whole spectrum of life. Thus we challenge our athletes to go after excellence athletically, academically, personally, in leadership and spiritually. This is a challenging but noble endeavor that carries great distinction and is the highest honor we bestow in our department.”
—Jeff Gamache, Athletic Director, Spartans Athletics.
Spartans soccer star Paul Ballard (’06, ‘17) was having his dream season. A four-time Canada West Conference All-Star, a two-time All-Canadian in 2005 and 2006, Trinity Western University Athlete of the Year in. He was also awarded the Spartan’s Complete Champion in 2006. Not only that, but he was captain of the Vancouver Whitecaps reserve team and had been told that a contract was waiting for him upon graduation.
Everything seemed to be coming together like he’d always dreamed. But then the unexpected happened. He tore is ACL in his senior year and was unable to play in the National Championships.
“I felt like everything I have been working toward was taken,” says Ballard of that painful time. “When the tear happened, not only did my opportunity to compete with my team for a national championship end, but so did my chance to play for the Whitecaps”. The Whitecaps were in the process of re-shuffling the club as they prepared to go to the MLS and unsigned players like Ballard, were no longer in their plans.
This injury didn’t signal the end of his soccer career, however, and Ballard went on the play professional soccer internationally for the next five years. One of his career highlights was playing for the Cleveland City Stars against the Vancouver Whitecaps in front of all his friends and family.
A New Path
As devastating as his injury was in his senior year, Ballard says that when he reflects on it, he sees how unexpected opportunities arose that led him on a new path full of wonderful discoveries.
“I look at the injury now and say that if it didn’t happen, I maybe wouldn’t be the man I am today,” says Ballard. “What I have right now is special. A lot of the lessons I learned and who I am today stems from that injury.”
One of the paths that opened for Ballard was working as a fulltime staff for Athletes in Action, where he served with his wife, Roslynn Ballard (’07), a former Spartan Basketball player. Together they served AIA in South Africa, Northern Ireland, and in Canada. Once retired from playing soccer, Ballard began spending time on his education, namely his Masters of Transformational Student Leadership at Trinity Western and his UEFA coaching license. Shortly after graduating with his MA and receiving his UEFA ‘A’ in 2017, he was offered the head coach position of the women’s soccer program at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, QC.
“It was a part-time job at the start, so my wife and I were still running Athletes in Action soccer while living out here,” says Ballard. “Then after my first year, they hired me full-time and gave the position of director of soccer. I now oversee all soccer operations at the school and also am the coordinator of the Gaiter Athletics Excellence in Leadership Program.”
As both a head coach and leadership mentor to all student-athletes, Ballard says he’s overjoyed to have the opportunity to pour into another generation of athletes.
“I love what I do,” says Ballard. “I love that I work at this institution where I get to mold and shape future leaders. I love that I’m able to do it side by side with my wife.”
Roslynn also works with him on his coaching staff while continuing to work as the Director of Athletes in Action in Quebec. Ballard says he is happy with their life and the choice they made in moving to Quebec and to be living in a small community where they can raise their three girls (Sienna, Amelia, and Evangeline) without the distractions of a big city.
Reflections From A Complete Champion
As he reflects back on his career and all that he’s been through, Ballard says playing for the Spartans is a highlight.
“It was special to be recognized as someone who pursues excellence in all the elements of a Spartan Complete Champion, and to have my name recognized with those who have gone before,” says Ballard. “But what we did on the field as a team while at TWU is still for me my most proud athletic achievement. Being part of a team that started out as nobodies and helping build a program that ended up as the third best team in the county and Canada West champions was pretty significant.”
Ballard says he still has many close friends from his time at Trinity Western and that he feels fortunate to have been able to attend. He also credits his Masters as being extremely formative for who he is today as a coach.
“The program was the right thing for me at the right time in my life,” says Ballard. “I feel it helped prepare me for what I was about to do at Bishop’s as a transformative servant leader.”
Although things did not go as expected for Ballard after tearing his ACL in 2006, he remains thankful for the opportunities that have come his way and recognizes that a lot of who he is today is a result of a number of things that were far beyond his control.